A few years ago, when I was working in an office setting, I wrote a blog post about amping up productivity. In hindsight, it’s not bad. But, having grown a little and experienced several different types of work environments since then, I’d tweak my suggestions a bit. Back then, in the corporate workplace, I was noticing that every person I talked with said they were busy. People were busy on projects, busy on phone calls, busy answering email and busy in meetings. I gave this advice:
- Successful leaders delegate. Early in my career, a boss told me that in order to be promoted AND be successful I would need to delegate to my team. Delegation is not just a way to pass along those work tasks we do not want to do. Delegation is a way to give tasks to the employee most adept at doing them and to whom it makes sense in the grand scheme of their work. Delegation can be a way to teach staff who are developing their skills.
- Focus on a message. I once heard a speaker tell an audience to write the most important, immediate goal on a Post It note and display it on your computer monitor, or somewhere visible on your desk. I’ve tried this and it really works. Any time I got sidetracked in “busy work”, I would see that small reminder and it focused my attention.
- Push back on false deadlines. Numerous times a day people come at you with requests to do something. Everyone has a deadline. Most people say “yes”, then complain to colleagues that they are too buried to do the task. When someone asks you to do something for them, negotiate your own deadline. Speak up if you need to tell them how you prioritize the task compared to other things you have on your plate. You’ll be surprised how many people build in cushion when they ask someone to help them.
- Know that not all valuable work happens in front of your computer. This sounds crazy in today’s world, but it’s critical in order to have blocks of time where you can focus on a project. If you are in front of the screen, you are tempted to answer email. Find a conference room, chair on another floor, or space outside to get away for 30 minutes or an hour each day to focus . Another option is to turn off the computer and hit “send calls” and remain in your office.
Now, for many people, these four tips are still valid. Working smarter, and being productive, doesn’t happen by drinking a special potion. I wish it was that easy! What I missed in my earlier post is that we CHOOSE to be busy. We choose to overload on tasks and to accept work that is not value added to the organization. Today, in 2017, I would change the focus of how to actually be more productive at work. It’s by actually choosing to do less work, thinking more, and finding creative ways to do it.
The real action is not in the small tasks that we take to be more productive. In fact, it’s really a question of whether each of us WANTS to be more productive. Maybe we don’t. The action is in the decision of whether we believe in our company enough to want to be engaged in the successful outcomes. If we do, then taking steps to higher productivity become second nature. If we don’t, then we’re making that choice of disengagement.
What do you choose?